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In times of great uncertainty, it is easy (and normal) to feel out of control. And with the state of the world right now, I’m sure we are all worried about a lot of things, money being high on that list. Today we are going to dig into some things that you can control, to try to help ease your minds for the months ahead.
You can control your budget.
Haven’t started a budget yet? Don’t worry – now’s the perfect time!
Here is our guide to budgeting (written pre-pandemic). This is a great place to start if you want to learn how to get set up and some of the basics of budgeting.
And here is what I would say, today, in the midst of the greatest health crisis our generation has ever experienced:
Focus only on your ‘four walls’
Food, utilities, shelter, transportation. These are the most critical part of your budget.
Entertainment? Nope. Can’t go out. Restaurants? Nope to that too. The four walls come first, especially when money is tight.
Cut back on all non-essential expenses.
You don’t need subscription boxes being delivered, and you don’t need new clothes. You don’t need anything beyond your four walls.
Stop any extra debt payments.
Every single extra dollar you can find needs to be saved right now. In your bank account, in your sock drawer, wherever it makes you feel good. But for real, the debt-free scream can wait. Save everything you can until we are through these weeds. THEN we’ll talk about debt again.
Stop any non-essential contributions to savings plans or retirement plans.
Yes, we’ve lost a lot in our investments in the past few weeks. And it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But this has happened before, and things WILL bounce back. For the time being, leave everything where it is. Just don’t add any MORE to it.
The time for rebuilding will come. Right now you want to focus on keeping as much money available to you as you can.
Write down your numbers and make a plan.
The upcoming weeks of indoor, quiet living is a great time for you to get set up and take control of your finances. You can use online banking and EveryDollar or a pen and paper.
Take note of what is coming in and how much will be going out.
You can control your habits.
For those of us already rocking the budget, now is the time to stick with the good habits we have built up. Don’t slip back into bad habits like overspending, using credit cards, or not updating your budget.
We built these habits during sunnier days so that we could use them when the storm arrived. And guess what? The storm is here. So focus on the financial habits that you need to maintain to get through this.
Related: H is for Habits
Don’t stop tracking your spending or setting up your budget each month. Think of creative ways to do more with less. And don’t you dare lose sight of your goals. One step at a time, we WILL get through this, and come out stronger on the other side.
You can control your spending.
We’ve seen a thousand memes of people overdoing the toilet paper in the past few weeks. Whether that was you or not, here’s the truth. You NEED a few weeks worth of food and supplies. Not a few years worth. If you spend all your money on toilet paper and then don’t get paid again for three months, you’ll wish you had money, not 400 rolls of toilet paper.
Jokes aside, be reasonable with what you spend. We bought some extra pantry staple items and made sure the freezer was stocked, but not much more than usual.
Related: Groceries on a budget
And. Just because Amazon Prime is still rocking deliveries for us does not mean we should throw everything imaginable into our carts. I immediately started scrolling with things I “needed” to buy. Colouring books? New markers? A jigsaw puzzle!? Be really clear between need and want in the weeks ahead and make sure you have your four walls covered before you start shelling out money for the latest games and toys to entertain those kiddos.
In a time where so much feels out of control, let your spending be something that you do control.
You can control your emergency fund.
I don’t know your financial situation. I hope you have at least a thousand dollars in the bank, but I know for so many of you that isn’t the case.
From now on – spend as little as you can, and save as much as you can. Anything extra you can find, add it to your Emergency Fund.
And yes, THIS is an emergency. But, and this is REAL truth: do not keep living your regular life and spending the balance of your savings without thinking about the future.
We do not know how long this will last. We do not know how long we will be out of work or unable to pay our bills. And you guys? That’s terrifying. I get it.
Hear me well: You HAVE TO use the money you have as responsibly as you can right now. These are the lessons we will pass down to our grandkids, the way our grandparents learned them during the great depression.
So, while I encourage it to use it when you need it, I implore you to protect it and make it last for as long as you can.
You can control what you consume.
In general, I keep my head in the sand around sad news. I don’t read about local violence or politics or widespread global tragedy. I stay informed without mass consumption because I recognize that it is not good for my mental health.
In the past four days, I have watched more press conferences and read more news articles than ever before in my life. It is a vicious spiral, and once you take a sip, it’s hard to stop drinking. So. Protect your heart and mind, just like you are trying to protect your lungs. Search out joy, limit your social media scrolling, and make sure you are keeping a balance in your life.
I’ve been working extraordinarily hard over the past few years to live more and more with intention. And I can feel how much that is paying off during these unstable times. Check out this list of ways to be intentional with all things!
You can control your attitude.
While we are talking about things we can control, your attitude should actually be the TOP of this list.
My favourite day in 2019 was December 21 – Winter Solstice. We slowed everything down. Played Lego. Built a puzzle. Went for a walk. Talked to each other. There was nowhere to go and no looming deadlines, and I felt my soul take a breath for the first time in a long time.
I vowed to choose slow in 2020 too, but with work and school and life – well, you know how it goes. But, it seems the universe has chosen for me. This is an opportunity to slow down. To breathe. To connect with our families in ways we haven’t had time to in ages. I’m choosing to see this as a gift of time and of creating memories within the walls of my home. To be silly with my son. Flex my creative muscles more than I usually get to. To read more. Sleep more. Dream more.
YOU get to choose what you read and watch and listen to. YOU get to decide the tone you set for your home. Are you wearing your PJs for the fifth day in a row and eating goldfish crackers and fruit snacks for dinner? Or are you showering and getting dressed, making real food, and striving for some sort of normalcy inside the chaos?
If you look for things to be mad at or scared of right now, believe me when I say you’ll certainly find them. But you can CHOOSE to find the good. To see this as a gift to humanity – the breath of fresh air and pause we so desperately need.
In a world that is spinning faster and faster, try to take control of the things that you can. Your money is a great place to start. Take control by using a budget, spending carefully, and finding contentment with what you have.